Why Is My Breast Milk Pink? Lactation Consultants Explain Why It Takes On A New Hue

By
Share
Ad failed to load

When I gave birth to my daughter, I knew one thing about breastfeeding — I wanted to try it. Literally, that was it. I had no idea how often to feed the baby, how to pump, how to store milk, nothing. Luckily, breastfeeding came really easy to both of us, so I began adding in a few pumping sessions just to have milk on hand for bottles and grandparents. But imagine my surprise that first pumping sesh at five days postpartum when I saw pink milk come out of my nipples. Why is my breast milk pink and why didn't anyone tell me my breasts could do this trick?

"Strawberry milk," my lactation consultant told me, laughing. Well, that sounds nice enough. Like a Beatrix Potter-themed snack. But then she continued, "That's what we call it when your milk gets a little tinged with blood. It's no biggie." And then I found out she also calls it "rusty pipe syndrome" which is 100 percent more horrifying. And then I fainted.

OK, I didn't faint. But I was a little skeeved out knowing that my breast milk had been colored pink by my own blood. And I was supposed to feed this to my vampire baby? In the days following my daughter's birth, blood and breastfeeding had been kind of synonymous. While breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, according to Kelly Mom, some things can cause your nipples to crack or bleed and also just feel sore in those early days of breastfeeding. A poor latch can really do a number on your nipples and sometimes, that can show up in your breast milk.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

But is that pink "strawberry milk" or "rusty pipe" milk safe to give your baby? Absolutely. "It’s totally safe to feed baby," International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and owner of Tiny Tummies Lactation Services Tori Sproat tells Romper. She explains that while it's super scary to see, there's usually a good reason why it's happening.

"There are several reasons for the bleeding, typically something small," she says, using an example of a small cut on your skin. If you take even one drop of blood and put it in water, it's bound to look worse than it is, and blood in breast milk is a similar concept. The Infant Risk Center noted the same thing on its website — a tiny amount of blood is fine to ingest and even the smallest droplet can make your milk take on a much pinker hue than you would think.

Ad failed to load

"So causes can be tiny tears from high suction, poor fitting flanges from pumping, or even a shallow latch or tongue tie," Sproat explains Larger, obvious cuts can be the cause too, but she says you'll absolutely notice something like that. Sproat also mentions that there is a worst case scenario of breast cancer, but "strawberry milk" can also be attributed to that phenomenon lactation consultants call "rusty pipe syndrome." A 2013 article in Breastfeeding Review defines "rusty pipe syndrome" as "presence of blood in the breast milk" that renders the milk a rusty or brownish color. Apparently this can be spontaneous and can, unfortunately, "act as a psychological barrier to successful breastfeeding."

Giphy

But honestly, Sproat says this isn't really something to worry about unless it's happening all the time. She recommends documenting the blood in your breast milk when it happens and if you see it happening more than a few times, you'll want to get it checked out. I can remember calling my own pediatrician in a panic when my baby spit up around 4 days old and her spit-up was basically bloody breast milk. "Oh, that's probably just from your nipples being sore as you get used to breastfeeding," they said. And then I panicked because my God, what horrible thing was I feeding my baby?

Ad failed to load

Turns out, nothing — I wasn't feeding anything horrible to my baby. Sproat says feeding your baby milk tinged with blood is safe so long as "you don't have a disease passed via blood" like hepatitis or HIV. "Breast milk is full of living cells, so the teeny blood won't harm baby," she says.

In short, as long as your milk doesn't look like a strawberry milkshake with every pumping session, it's most likely something small causing the pink hue. You can feed it to your baby, you can store it, and you can freeze it. Just be sure to let your lactation consultant know if it happens frequently so they can figure out exactly why your nipples seem to be bleeding so much. In the meantime, you can just pretend like you're some kind of soda jerk making malts in a 1950s diner.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.  

Ad failed to load
Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Things That *Will* Go Wrong Every Time You Plan A Kid-Free Night

The last time my husband and I went out to dinner alone was… actually, I can’t remember. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a movie in a theater in the last year. Before we had children we used to go out all the time. But even with …
By Liza Wyles

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack